Evercrack

So for my final project of doom, I started playing Everquest a little while ago. Well, Everquest II. It’s addicting and that’s not good.

I started playing and pretty much just ran around and killed stuff for a while, ignoring the other people. Everquest II is free to play–up to a point. As far as I know there’s no 30 day trial thing, nor is it set up as WOW, where it’s free up to level 20. No, Everquest is way sneakier than that. If you want to play for free, that’s fine–as long as you don’t mind not being able to acceess certain things. For example, when you start, the number of characters you can select from in the free version is very limited. It then goes into limiting the amount of items you can carry on you, the amount of items you can put in a bank, and even which items you can equip! I found this cool legendary thingy, and tried to equip it, and it wouldn’t let me. It’s unfortunate, really, but I’m not going to pay just to do those things.

Anyway, I got tired of just running around on my own, so I found a guild to join to actually experience the MM part of MMO. The people I met were really nice, and are very patient with my noob-ness.

I find Everquest to sometimes be difficult to understand. It’s trying to do a lot of things at once, which might be part of the problem. It also wants to take all of your money. That sucks.

But I’m still messing around with it, so I’m hoping to get a bit better at it. There’s so much I don’t understand D:

The people in my guild like Big Bang Theory, too. I picked the right one.

So if anyone is playing Everquest II on the Permafrost server, we should get together and kill stuff.

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Amateurs vs. Professionals?

This is just something quick I was thinking about while watching that movie in class the other day. Steal This Film II, according to Blackboard?

Well, it touched briefly on how professionals are having issues making money off of some of their content because it is so readily available online this days. But does it really need to be all about the money?

The video also mentioned how there is a lot of amateur content out there these days. These amateurs make their own stuff and put it on the internet for free for everyone to enjoy. Their primary focus isn’t on making money, but producing good quality content. How many artists and film industries these days can attest to that?

There is a webcomic I follow, Romantically Apocalyptic (if you like web comics I highly recommend it), and its author once said something I really agree with: if an artist (of any kind) really wants to make quality content, they’ll put it out there for everyone to enjoy for free; and if your content is good, you will find loyal fans who will support you through buying your merchandise, or even sending donatitions. That’s how this author is currently funding his projects. Maybe because they’re focused on quality, their stuff might actually be better than the professional stuff.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who makes music and movies should start giving away their content in the hopes of people funding their stuff out of the goodness of their hearts, but perhaps we ought not sneer at amateur products. After all, unlike Hollywood and the music industry, amateurs want their content to be good: they’re not (always) interested in becoming rich off of it.

This was done by an "amateur" artist, Vitaly S. Alexius, who makes the Romantically Apocalyptic series.

I mean, honestly. This guy is a genius, his artwork is beautiful, and he’s not in it for the money (though I’m sure it helps); he does make money, but it’s not his primary objective. So maybe he wouldn’t really be an amateur, but he’s not in any kind of business or anything. Ah, whatever. The main point is he makes amazing stuff and it’s available to see online for free.

So just because something is free for consumers, does that make it better? No, of course not. However, because there is no pressure for amateurs to make money, they can put better care into their work. Also, they value their fans a lot more. Basically, the content being free doesn’t make it better–but the autors being free does.

The Hunger Games

So I went to see The Hunger Games this past weekend. It was a pretty good adaptation of the book, to a point. Why yes, I am one of those annoying people who reads the book, watches the movie, then critiques it when the film doesn’t follow the book EXACTLY. Which is unrealistic, I know. When a book is turned into a movie it can’t always be preserved exactly for various reasons: namely, time constraints. But in the case of The Hunger Games certain key parts were cut out that, at least in my opinion, were vital to the book.

Before I go on, in case anyone doesn’t for whatever reason doesn’t know the plot of The Hunger Games by now, I’ll give you a quick summary: it follows Katniss Everdeen, who takes her sister’s place in something called the Hunger Games, where children are forced to fight to the death while it’s broadcasted on live TV. The last one standing wins. There are 12 poor districts who must offer up a boy and girl to fight, while the Capitol, a wealthy, cruel overlord-y type place, watches and celebrates. They use the Hunger Games as a tool of oppression, since many years ago the districts revolted against the Capitol and failed. The Hunger Games are the Capitol’s way of saying “Look, we take your children and kill them and you can do nothing about it.”

It’s such a good book. The movie wasn’t bad, but there were parts where I wish they’d stayed a little more true to the book.

While reading the book, or even watching the movie, it’s impossible not to see the comparisons Suzanne Collins makes between the post apocalyptic world of Panem to our modern day Western culture. The Capitol is a place where its citizens want to look young, thin and beautiful, taking great pains to achieve all three, while the districts (or at least Katniss’s impoverished District 12) view age as an achievement, when so many people die young; being fat is something to be jealous of–it means you have enough (and more!) to eat. The Capitol, in its extravagance, has its warped idea of beauty, to the point where the rest of the districts are disturbed by what the Capitol thinks is “fashionable”.

SOUND FAMILIAR? IT SHOULD.

The Capitol is Western society. Though our idea of beauty doesn’t include purple hair or crazy outfits, it is still a warped, isolated idea. We need to be thin and young to be beautiful? UGH.

My friend and I went to see the movie this past Friday, and we were talking about it afterwards. She mentioned that, since the Capitol has all this amazing technology and medicine, you would think some of it would trickle down to the districts. I then realized, aren’t we the same? Shouldn’t our technology and medicine be trickling down to the people in countries who are dying from things we could easily fix?

The Capitol also represents the class system Marx hated so much: one being completely dominated and oppressed by another. The districts are so heavily oppressed by the Capitol that they can barely struggle to survive, not to mention being forced to watch and even celebrate as their children kill each other. It is the bourgeois and the proletariat all over again, except with more killing. Well, maybe not much more killing. Just a lot more…colourful.

Anyway, The Hunger Games is an excellent, not to mention effective, medium of criticizng our current soicety, and the movie stays true to the book’s main theme: oppression, in many ways. The Capitol oppresses the districts in literal ways, but the Capitol citizens are also somewhat oppressed by the twisted notion of beauty they are presented with. Though it may be a more extreme version of Western culture, it is no doubt a representation of our society. It also talks about how the media aid in this oppression: the Games are broadcasted live to all the districts, and everyone must watch. Here, the media are a tool to keep the people in their place by having them watch their children die.

So, don’t you see?

We are the Capitol.

Are the Media Evil?

Kind of, yes.

It’s kind of cliché, I know. But it’s also kind of true.

So the other day, I was waiting in line at Sobey’s, and I was looking at the covers of all of those celebrity news magazines, and they show things like “Kate has a puppy” and “Brad Pitt is silly” or something equally asinine. I mean, first of all, who gives a crap? Then they have the magazines that say “LOSE 16 POUNDS IN A WEEK!” Which, by the way, is pretty much impossible, unless you are extremely, fatally ill. Which is bad.

So what do all of these messages have in common? The simple, Western idea that in order to be beautiful and therefore, worthwhile, you need to follow this image the media show us. And the images they show us are impossible to live up to. Super thin girls and perfectly built boys, it’s not wonder we have so many young people with eating disorders.

And it’s not even completely the fault of every celebrity. I think we often forget they’re people just as much as the rest of us….just with a lot of more money. It’s how they’re portrayed by the media that makes them seem like part of the problem. But while they promote the warped idea of beauty we have, they are also forced into a mold of sorts, and you can’t be outside of this mold to be successful.

Because of this twisted idea, we’ve become a nation of people with eating disorders, self esteem issues, and incredibly low self worth. My question is, why are we letting them do this to us? It used to be the case that more plump women were considered more attractive.

There is a website I saw that compares paintings of Venus as an image of beauty, and they have been photoshopped to represent how they would have been painted today, based on our notion of beauty.

Venus vs Modern day

Traditional beautry vs. modern day beauty

The difference is astonishing and worrying.

Why do we think that thinner is so much better for women? What is wrong with us, that we let the media dictate our own self worth?

Are the media evil? They are when they send out these sick messages.

Books are Awesome

Books are fun. I like books a lot.
Are books dying out? I love how everything about new media ends up killing some old media. Video killed the radio star and all that.

Well, we have ebooks and stuff online to read and whatnot, but…. it’s just not the same. You read a book online, or as an ebook, sure, the content is all there, but it’s almost an emotionless way of reading. It may sound silly, but the actual satisfaction of turning the page, of holding the real book in your hands is part of the reading experience. To read on a computer or even things like Kindles is a very robotic, almost monotone way of reading. And, as was mentioned in class, once you have a book on your Kindle or whatever, you can’t share it. LAME.

Kindle

The Kindle, where you read your books on this lame little screen.

Sure, it’s faster, but does that make it better?

I was watching an interview of Chris Hedges (for another ICS class) about a month ago, who likes to slam new media and talk about how it’s killing our culture and society and thought processes–you know, the usual. But what really struck me is when he made the claim that the literacy rate of Americans is rapidly declining because nobody is reading anymore–which is, of course, the fault of new media.
But people are reading: they’re just doing it online now instead of dead-tree books. Some will probably make the argument that ebooks are more eco-friendly than dead tree books. To them I say, so what? The ebook requires constant power–isn’t that a drain on resources as well? At least some paper books are made from recycled paper.

I find we don’t talk about books as a medium in this course, and I know it’s because the primary focus is digital and newer media. But books are something that, unlike the music industry, have not been crushed into oblivion by a new form for media. I mean, just look at Chapters in Saint John–that bad boy isn’t going anywhere (I hope, I love that place). But it’s quality is kind of going in the same direction as music. There are so many vampire books out there right now, it’s insane. And now zombies are the new thing. Which is awesome and stuff. But the writing style of most of these authors, I find, isn’t all that great anymore. I remember Pendragon, and Harry Potter, and His Dark Materials–what series today can stand with those? (With the exception of the Hunger Games–the first two books. The last one ruined the whole series).

I’m not sure if I’ve actually made a real point here, but I’m basically saying that, in my mind, paper books > online books and ebooks. I love the way a real book feels, and even looks and smells. There is nothing quite like a new book. This is a form of “old” media that is still quite dominant and I love it. I hope new media doesn’t kill them.